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Pharma news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news affecting the industry

Further Lipitor mix up; MHRA intervenes

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has recalled a consignment of Lipitor, batch number 0533094G, distributed by Lexon UK because the blister strips have been over-labelled incorrectly as Lipitor 20mg, instead of Lipitor 10mg. The move by the agency follows a recall by Lexon UK, in which the distributor stated that only packets within batch 0533094G, marked Ref 23477, should be recalled. The MRHA believed this to be misleading as the reference number is not marked on the blister packs, and subsequently recommended the recall of the entire batch. Pharmacists have been asked to quarantine any remaining stock and return to the distributor for credit.

Six line up for BHI

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Pfizer and Novartis are rumoured to be among the six pharmaceutical companies interested in getting their hands on Boots International Healthcare (BHI), the over-the-counter business of Boots valued recently at around £1.2bn. Johnson & Johnson, Bayer and Reckitt Benckiser are also understood to be on the shortlist of potential bidders. However, the sale of BHI, which was put on the market in April, has garnered considerable interest, with analysts now predicting that the bid winner may have to pay more than £1.8bn to secure a deal.

While around 10 companies, including a number of private equity firms, tendered first round bids by the August 3 deadline, trade buyers are seen to be the preferred bidders as they can create more effective economies of scale by integrating BHI with existing activities. A final date for the auction is expected at the end of September.

Former HealthSouth CFO goes to jail

A former chief financial officer at HealthSouth, Aaron Beam, has been sentenced to three months in jail for his part in the £2.7bn accounting fraud at the company. His sentence comes just two months after HealthSouth's former chief executive, Richard Scrushy, was found not guilty of overstating company earnings. Beam was one of five HealthSouth chief financial officers who agreed to testify against Scrushy in return for reduced sentences. He could have faced up to 30 years in prison. In addition to his prison sentence, Beam was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, forfeit $275,000 of the gains made from the fraud and given a year's probation following his release. In handing down the jail term US District Judge, Robert Propst, said: ìYou're certainly not the worst fish in the sea in this deal.î

Adderall XR reinstated in Canada

Health Canada is reinstating marketing approval for Shire Pharmaceutical's attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug, Adderall XR, after a six-month ban. The move to allow the drug back onto the market follows a recommendation from the New Drug Committee (NDC) over the safety and efficacy of the treatment. Marketing authorisation for Adderall XR was suspended by Health Canada after 20 deaths from cardiovascular incidences were reported in children and adults taking the drug. The recommendation for reinstatement of Adderall XR includes revisions to the Canadian Product Monograph and patient leaflet. Shire has also been advised by the NDC to distribute a letter to healthcare professionals and support ongoing education for doctors to bolster their understanding about the risk of sudden death in children taking the drug.

Companies facing court for fraud

California has filed a lawsuit accusing 39 pharmaceutical companies of defrauding the state's Medicaid programme by inflating drug prices. The companies accused include big names such as Abbott Laboratories, Amgen, Baxter Healthcare, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Schering-Plough.

30th September 2008

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